Jed Cohen

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Archive for July, 2009

Cross Platform Integration

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Cross platform integration can be a great thing.  Promoting and sharing content from one network to another can improve the quality and spread of information, and it can invite new perspectives on a discussion.  But there are definite downsides.  Let’s take this whole Twitter/Facebook and FriendFeed/Facebook integration mess that’s going on right now.  As far as I can figure out, what’s happening is that individual’s Twitter and FriendFeed posts are being mass pushed to Facebook, even if they didn’t turn on that feature.  It’s probably because of a change in the Facebook apps that integrate those services.  I feel comfortable saying this because it’s happening to people with both their Twitter and FriendFeed accounts connected to their Facebook.

Chances are, some behind the scenes change to the way the Facebook applications get data from Twitter and FriendFeed has led to this.  Or maybe it’s some changes they’ve made to the settings on status updates has overridden the application’s settings; if I remember correctly you can display the apps in your profile but not update your status (not sure because I don’t use these apps).  I don’t know for sure – I’m not a computer programmer, so this is all just possibilities and a little bit of common sense.  Either way, there are a few lessons we can learn from this I think.

  • If you’re a platform, please test changes before you go live.  This seems obvious, but “testing” when you have a userbase of 250 million like Facebook does means a lot of variables have to be considered.  I don’t want to be critical of Facebook –  let’s cut them some slack, and recognize that they can’t test every scenario, and things like this will happen (as much as they’d prefer they didn’t).
  • If you’re a developer, remember that you’re not working in a vacuum.  If you use the Twitter or Facebook APIs, you have to remember that you don’t own them.  Expect that changes will be made, and be willing to be flexible.  Plan accordingly, and build in contingency plans if you can.
  • If you’re a user, recognize that you use different platforms for different purposes.  I use Twitter for public stuff and Facebook for friends only stuff.  I hardly use FriendFeed (sorry FriendFeed, I just haven’t worked you into my routine).  It’s cool if you want to mix them; I don’t.  Either way, think about how you integrate all of your services across the web.  Keep in mind that those services are all created by different companies and have different goals.  Just because you want to send one unified message doesn’t mean that you should hook as many services into one another as possible.  Instead, keep in mind that each channel is different and deserves a slightly different approach.  This applies to companies too – would you use a radio ad on television?  Of course not!  So should you really be using a Facebook campaign on Twitter?  (Note: not a rule, just a suggestion).

Anyway, things like this are reminders that social media is still a new space.  Sure, Facebook has been around for years, and the White House uses Twitter as part of its communication strategy now.  But we still play and work in this fluid, dynamic environment that is subject to change – and we must be prepared to accept issues like this one, and be patient until they are resolved.

In the meantime, here’s how to block the Twitter and FriendFeed apps on Facebook – just click “Block Application” on the left. (This issue has been resolved).  And why don’t you leave a comment and let me know what you think while you’re at it?

EDIT (7.30, 8:30 AM EST):  I was reading the two articles at Mashable about this, and scrolling through the comments, I saw many negative responses to the whole situation.  Can someone please explain this to me?  Do we really expect social media companies to be perfect in everything they do?  It’s not like Facebook started putting everyone’s information on the Internet….they just posted a public feed somewhere it wasn’t meant to go (on another public website).  I don’t really get it.

Written by Jed

July 29th, 2009 at 11:24 pm

Posted in facebook,twitter

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Google’s Own Area Code?

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I got into Google Voice today.  For those of you who haven’t heard of it before, Google Voice is a kind of free super phone service.  You sign up, get a number, and can forward calls to that number to your work, cell, or home phone.  You can program in rules to follow (like if it is 8a-5p, forward to work, 5p-9p forward to cell, and 9p-8a forward to home).  Your voicemails are transcripted and indexable, and you can listen in on them as they’re being recorded.  You can also, you know, call people on it.

Anyway, the first thing you do upon opening your Google Voice account is select a number:

Google Voice Signup

I haven’t moved pass this step.

Why?

Because I’m not sure what area code I want to use.  In order to set this up, Google – okay, it was really GrandCentral, which Google purchased – obtained a whole slew of phone numbers in almost every area code in the country.  But they don’t restrict you to selecting the area code you live in when you sign up.  Right now I live in New York.  But I want to move to California.  Should I choose New York because that’s where I live now?  But when I move, won’t that be confusing to people I give that number to?  What happens if I select an area code in California but don’t end up moving there?  For that matter, I could pretend I’m based in Alaska, Nebraska, or Texas – three states I’ve never visited!  It could get pretty confusing if everyone starts choosing the area code they want instead of the one they live in…..

Yes, Google does let you change your number later (it’s $10).  But the whole idea of Google Voice is that the number follows you from place to place.  So why am I forced into choosing an area code, which inherently locks me into coming from one location?  I think this is an opportunity to improve on the service.  According to Wikipedia, there are several area codes not in use.  Why can’t Google Voice be assigned an area code?  After all, it’s entirely a virtual service, and as such is not bound by location (no idea what this would entail, but as I don’t work for Google, I don’t have to worry about the paperwork – I can just write what I want and they can choose whether or not to listen).

In the meantime, I suppose I’ll have to choose a number and stick with it for a while.  Do you think that Google Voice should have its own area code?  Did you put any thought into selecting your number?  Or do you think that telephones are so 20th century, and video conferencing/instant messaging/twittering is the way to keep in touch?  Leave a comment – I’m curious!

Written by Jed

July 28th, 2009 at 6:39 pm

Posted in internet

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Social Media Fatigue

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I’ve  been experiencing social media fatigue over the last few weeks.  I’m not sure why, and I don’t know how to stop it.  What is interesting to me about this though it that social media is an entirely voluntary experience.  I choose to log into Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, FriendFeed, Digg, etc, and if I want to leave all I have to do is close my web browser.  So why should I feel overwhelmed with social media when I choose when I want to interact with it?

Take a look at the right hand side of this page and you’ll see a list of links to a few social media sites I’m on.  I’ve signed up for so many services, I can’t begin to assemble a full list.  Tumblr, Posterous, Delicious, YouTube, Disqus, Google, Scribd, SlideShare, and on and on and on.  My accounts on some of these sites are just placeholders in case I decide one day to use whatever features that platform provides.  And what I’ve listed here just scratches the surface of what is online.  What does the fact that there are websites like namechk dedicated solely to checking username availability tell us about the space that social media occupies?

This may perhaps be at odds with my last post, as there I was all excited about the growth of the third dimension of the social graph.  But as social functions are built into more and more websites, we run the risk of being unable to isolate ourselves from others online if we want to.  And why would we want to?  Any number of reason I suppose, from frustration with spam to a desire for privacy to a temporary bout of misanthropy.

Remember that work/life balance concept you may have heard of?  I wonder if we should begin to focus on a physical/digital balance as well as more and more people, companies, and brands enter the digital space.  As high speed mobile internet access spreads, should we be working to grow the number or quality of the interactions we participate in in the real world to match?  What happens when we shift more and more online to a hyperconnected web that lacks many of the nonverbal cues we use during in person interactions?  How can we stay engaged and focused when we flit from platform to platform like a hummingbird amongst the flowers?  And can we afford to take a break from social media to relax and focus on the real world without harming other’s perceptions of us?

Hopefully my social media fatigue will resolve itself soon.  In the meantime, I suppose I’ll be observing more than participating – which is one of the pluses of digital interactions I suppose.

Written by Jed

July 19th, 2009 at 8:48 pm

The Third Dimension of the Social Graph

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Welcome to the world of the social web.

These days, social media websites are no longer siloed off from one another; they are integrated entities, working together.  I can post my Twitter updates to my Facebook profile, throw in what I’m listening to on Pandora, export that all to my blog, and post it to any number of aggregators.  Each one of those websites has its own set of connections, the people I follow, or friend, or connect with.  And each of those individuals sits on my “social graph.”   If you’re not familiar with it, this just what it sounds like – a map of all of your social connections, and those connected to who you’re connected to, and so on and so forth.

What is interesting is that not all the ties on your graph are the same.  Consider the weak tie hypothesis of networking theory/sociology, which accounts for the development of social ties between disparate groups of people.  Basically, a lot of strong ties implies a close knit network where you know everyone well, while weak ties tend to imply a far reaching, varied social network with weaker relationships.  Thus someone with many weak ties is likely to have a large net of information to draw from, but the relationships will not be as deep.  (This, by the way, has many personal networking implications, but I think I’ll leave those to the networking experts).

I suppose it is then fitting that what I really want to talk about is a different kind of “weak tie,” one in which not separate people come together, but separate services and items.  I mentioned above some 0f the examples linking each social media service to one another, but there is another level to this as well – one that moves beyond just social media.  Specifically, I am thinking about the relatively recent rise of the interconnectedness between what we traditionally call social media and “non-social” websites.  To spell it out in terms of Facebook and Twitter, this would be Facebook Connect and the Twitter API.  Both expand the social graph beyond the two dimensional world of who you know and who knows you.  They allow for a world of three dimensions, one where every user can plug additional information into their social graph if they wish.  Here are two examples.  Facebook Connect allows you to log into Digg with your Facebook account and digg stories; this action can then be transmitted back to your Facebook account, telling your friends what you’ve done.  On the Twitter side of things, Spymaster allows you to assume the role of a covert agent and assassinate (and recruit) your fellow Twitter users, while also posting updates to your stream about your not so covert activities.

These, and other websites, are using the social aspects of social media outside of the traditional realm of the “social network” – the 2D relationship of being someone’s “friend.”  (I suppose that one could argue that the unidirectional nature of Twitter is a 1D relationship, but that’s not the point….however interesting its implications are.)  The point is that this information builds upon the basics provided by the social platform of your choice.  It’s not just your bio on your profile anymore; it’s also how you use the web.  And I think that that is the third dimension of the social graph.

This can be even more powerful if you start to look at ways that the social graph of the digital world can interact with the physical one.  Consider Nike+, which tracks users’ runs.  That too can be tied into Facebook (and Twitter).  Or BakerTweet, which tweets when the Albion Cafe in London has freshly baked goodies ready to sell.  There are many other examples of this type of crossover as well (see the plant that tweets, the washing machine that tweets, the cat door that tweets…..I’m sensing a pattern here folks).  What they’re all doing though is contributing to this third dimension on the social graph.

What’s the end result?  Don’t know.  It could be an interconnected, always on social world web, one where you can attach as much information to your identity as you’d like from a variety of sources.  Or it could be a layer of social networking information floating over the real world, one that tells you what your friends are doing at all times.  Or it could be the next way to meet new people, allowing users to find friends and business partners by interest, activity, or likes.  Or it could be all of these (one can argue it already is).  What remains though is that the social networks of today have opened their borders to one another, allowing users to access information from the digital and the physical, bringing the social web to conceivably every aspect of our lives – personal, professional, public, and beyond.

Regardless of how it turns out, I imagine this 3D social graph is going to be quite the interesting place to be.  And it’s one I hope to take advantage of.

Written by Jed

July 6th, 2009 at 11:00 pm

Twinterns Anonymous

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Hi, my name is Jed, and I’m a twintern.  This is my story.

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have noticed a lot of posts tagged with #career lately.  No, I haven’t suddenly become an expert on careers (far from it really) – I’m twintering for Careerealism.  Founded by J.T. O’Donnell, Careerealism is a blog/discussion forum focused on offering advice concerning the shifting concept of “career.”  I first came across Careerealism as my graduation was approaching, and I started searching Twitter for career advice.  Careerealism runs a “Twitter Advice Project” that lets a number of career experts answers reader’s questions via Twitter, so that was something I quickly stumbled across.  And as I followed Careerealism’s tweets, I noticed that they were looking for twinterns.

Now I do have a day job.  I’m not going to talk about it here (ever), but as I was thinking about what I wanted to do after graduation, I decided to go ahead and apply for this internship with Careeralism, because, well, why not?  It’s not really something I’d ever done before, and since I am pretty interested in social media, it’s right up my alley.

So what do I do as a twintern?  I tweet.  The whole idea is to help grow Careerealism’s brand awareness and to spread links to and articles on the site.  It’s marketing on Twitter.  J.T. has really embraced social media with the entire program, including in how she communicates with us – meetings occur via Justin.tv and a private Ning network, where we discuss what we’ll be tweeting about during the week, how we’ll be increasing the brand awareness of Careerealism, and also career advice (it wouldn’t be a website about careers if we didn’t).

The twinternship is a ten week program, and we’re about half way through at the moment.  It’s actually quite an interesting experience, because while I’ve been using Twitter for over a year now, it’s always been as an individual.  Tweeting for a brand is…..different.  I’ve already written a bit on how I like to use Twitter, which probably is not how you like to use Twitter (that’s the whole point by the way).  And it’s certainly not how a brand “should” use Twitter.  For example, I started unfollowing people who annoy me recently.  Is that a good thing for a brand?  Probably not, as reciprocity tends to rule the day on Twitter, and as there are a number of services that will follow and unfollow people for you automatically, unfollowing people is a good way to lower your own follower count.  This, of course, is not ideal, so long as we carry traditional advertising metrics like impressions and clickthroughs over to the social media space.  But what if we don’t?  What if we focus instead on the quality of the relationships we build online?

I’d like to thing that building relationships and letting brand awareness and trust build organically is more effective than pushing a brand upon people – I know it is with me.  Then again, I’m not an expert, and I’m pretty new at the whole tweeting for a brand thing (something I hope to write on in greater detail soon).  In the meantime, why don’t you tell me what you think?

Written by Jed

July 3rd, 2009 at 12:10 pm